The anti-vaccine movement, which has been born out of fraudulent research and unethical behaviour by Andrew Wakefield, has led to the reemergence of numerous infectious diseases that had previously been controlled and nearly eradicated by vaccines. Contrary to the claims of many conspiracy theorists and ‘Facebook trained doctors’ vaccines do not cause autism and are safe and effective forms of prevention for many awful infectious diseases. Unfortunately, many people remain ill-informed, in part due to the spread of misinformation on social media, and have chosen to forego routine vaccinations for their family members. As such, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the anti-vaccine movement as one of the top 10 global threats to health alongside air pollution, climate change, obesity, diabetes, antibacterial resistance, HIV, and Ebola.
Vaccination rates in the US, England, Canada, and Europe have been on the decline which has in turn lead to the reemergence of viral diseases including measles, diphtheria, and pertussis among the world’s population. There have been measles outbreaks in the US in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 all traced back to poor vaccination rates or unvaccinated individuals. In 2017, the WHO reported measles outbreaks in all regions of the world with an estimated 110,000 deaths in 2017 attributed to measles. Again, this is due to gaps in vaccination coverage and people refusing vaccines for themselves and their children. From 1980 to 2005 the rates of measles had dropped in the America’s dropped from 257,000 to 66, but in 2014 this number had risen back to almost 20,00 due to the anti-vaccine movement. The same rise in viral disease due to refusal of vaccines can be seen with pertussis and mumps.
It is concerning that the population most at risk for measles complications is the same population that has no say in their own protection by vaccines. Their parents are putting their lives at risk by avoiding something that has been shown time and time again to be safe. Additionally, research has shown that a measles infection can wipe out immune memory of previous infections or immunizations making a person susceptible to those diseases again. Vaccines are safe and any propaganda that tries to prove otherwise is leading to the reemergence of diseases that were once well controlled or nearly eradicated. This puts children at risk and causes unnecessary suffering and death. We do not want to return to the era of iron lungs due to polio or sky-rocketing infant death rates due to preventable diseases. Vaccines are among the greatest inventions in our modern society. It is time to stop playing nice with people who spread misinformation about vaccines, time to call the misinformation out for what it is. Lies, utter lies from people who prey on the weak and uninformed.